Pan-Africanism: distinctions, challenges, and prospects
The history of political interactions among humankind introduced several unique and catchy expressions and “pan…ism” held a prominent place and gained significant scholarly traction over the last few centuries. Societies of different backgrounds and uniting causes began movements of different purposes making their existence known to the world prefixed with a now common word “Pan-.”
Conceptually the prefix “pan” precedes to connote a broader sense of unity among a particular set of people centering on shared values and aspiring for a political agenda that would set them free from what they categorized as anti- “US” rooted in a characteristic pan-ideology. Pan-groups manifest a range of categories representing such core identities as race, ethnicity, religion, and collective residency in a particular region. The continent’s name eventually attached to the prefix pan signifying a collection of inhabitants within Africa.
Pan-Africanism entered into the nation’s political sphere and ascended to a leading uniting force mobilizing the wider continent to resist oppressive foreign rulers since the late 19 century. African elites and prominent political leaders across the continent and beyond swiftly converged to lay the foundational assumptions and viable operationality of Panafricanism. Particularly consecutive congresses held in 1900, 1919, 1921, 1923, 1927, and 1945 in different parts of the world focusing on pan-Africanism played a huge role in shaping the ideals of the ideology.
The distinctions of Pan-Africanism
Despite being a latecomer to the broader world politics where pan-groups already play a leading role in the fight against foreign rulers and colonizers Panafricanism is distinct from pan-ideologist in four forms.
First, pan-Africanism represents the largest worldwide political pan-group that ever exists in modern world politics. The entire continent embraces the pan-ideology driving its uniting political and economic aspirations. The African Union represents nearly 1.5 billion inhabitants that firmly believe in the idea of pan-Africanism, and this includes the wider Africans spread across the remaining continents of the globe. If there is a viable social reality that Africans tend to share with insignificant differences pan-Africanism is one, if not only.
Second, pan-Africanism existed as the only pan-group established to set the nation free at a continental level. The pan-ideology remained the only pan-group in world history that led an organized struggle of a huge continent for the Africans’ liberation, equality, self-determination, and dignity. The organized struggle continues although on a different front to ensure Africans’ integration for better economic benefits inspired by pan-Africanism under the leadership of a number of sub-regional organizations.
Third, pan-Africanism continues thriving through generations several decades after its core foundational aspirations have been successfully achieved with regard to freeing Africa from colonizers. The ideology sustains phases of a formative stage that transformed ideological blocs that challenged the continent’s transition from one goal, such as liberation, to another, such as economic prosperity. Pan-Africanism carries on through the nation’s transformation from the Organization of African Unity to the African Union in the year 2002 serving as the key underpinning philosophy.
Last but not least has to do with how well pan-ideology has been institutionalized. Unlike other pan-groups that exist across continents, pan-Africanism possesses a strong institutional presence in Africa. The sentiment of pan-Africanism has well been institutionalized by the continental organizational umbrella during the June 2014 Summit (Assembly/AU/Dec.529(XXIII)). Accordingly, the AU set up a Pan-African Parliament (PAP) to help the participation of Africans in the continent’s economic development and integration.
Challenges and prospects of pan-Africanism
Pan-Africanism sought the unification of all humankind of African descent originally to help advance the struggles against foreign oppressors. But also contemporarily to unify the African nation for better and sustainable economic benefits. This should however be looked through the blocs of challenges the ideology has been facing and the prospects it awaits.
One of the challenges has a structure attribute. No unit-level mechanism has not been configured to help the idea of pan-Africanism prevail. The sentiment of pan-Africanism vibrates less at a unit level than at the continent level. This exposes the uneven presence of the sentiment across the continent threatening its promising future ebbing away. Independent states show insignificant incorporation to accommodate pan-Africanism in their domestic political transactions. The fact that the idea is more sound at the continent level precludes the integration of pan-Africanism into individual state institutions and would disable the continental-level organs' strong presence and effective functionality.
Spiraling conflicts and widespread poor governance continue to be leading challenges to pan-Africanism. A united continent under the idea of pan-Africanism keeps failing from within. Uncontrolled intrastate and interstate conflicts keep tearing apart the sense of brotherhood that the nation internalized. As continental actors reject the importance of pan-Africanism to address political disputes at the local level the ideology could slowly lose ground in the continent. On the other hand, such damage has for long been exacerbated by an endless presence of poor governance both at national and continental levels. State institutions across the continent are hugely criticized for not providing a relatively quality service according to their mandates. The longer such malfunctioning sustains the pointless the sense of pan-Africanism becomes. What is the relevance of pan-Africanism when there is no good governance it entails to keep the nation served best?
However, prospects surround pan-Africanism as well. The unprecedented level of affection for pan-Africanism among generation-Z ensures the unfettered sustainability of the ideology. The youth in Africa and abroad take pan-Africanism for granted. They show an ever-increasing attachment to the pan-African sentiment and take active roles to help the idea maintain its strong presence. As the young generation keeps fully embracing the ideals of pan-Africanism manifested in a number of national, regional, continental, and global organizations the prospect of a strong pan-Africanism would grow substantially promising.
The other promising prospect rests on the institutional measures adopted and put into practice by the African Union. The continental supranational entity maintains its organizational aspirations on the strong philosophical foundations of pan-Africanism and sets viable goals to address the continent’s political and economic ambitions. Agenda 2063 continues to lead the overall developmental activities of the African Union a concrete manifestation of how the continent plans to achieve an ingrained sense of pan-Africanism.
Pan-Africanism: A Brief History of An Idea In the African World: https://www.jstor.org/stable/24351577
About the African Union: https://au.int/en/overview
The Prospects and Challenges of Pan-Africanism: https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.718
Institutionalising Pan-Africanism Transforming African Union values and principles into policy and practice: https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/98931/PAPER143H.pdf
Where Is Pan-Africanism Today? https://republic.com.ng/december-21-january-22/where-is-panafricanism-today/